A former in-prison reentry services participant will be celebrating his sixth year as director at the Herrin House of Hope this spring, a milestone he credits in part to skills and motivation he gained from his experience from GEO Reentry Services. John Steve reentered society with a dedication to giving back to his community and helping others after participating in in-prison reentry services at Southwestern Illinois Correctional Center (SWICC). He now holds an important role at the Herrin House, a faith-based nonprofit community center providing food and job training to underserved individuals and families in southern Illinois.
“I am very grateful to have been in the program at SWICC,” Steve said. “After 5 ½ years incarcerated, I felt my debt to society was still not paid; I wanted to continue to give back to society and help others less fortunate. That is how I make my peace with my past, and my hope for the future.”
After completing the reentry program and his sentence at SWICC, Steve was mentored by another former inmate, Tim O’Boyle, who has worked in reentry services since 2009 and now serves as the National Alumni Manager for GEO Reentry Services. O’Boyle battled addiction and spent 10 years in prison before he started working with ex-offenders. Steve said O’Boyle’s mentorship helped him transition to his community and uphold his commitment to changing his lifestyle for the better.
Reflecting on his role as Director at the Herrin House, Steve said he feels his career has been fulfilling because it allows him to be a resource to his community.
“I am very proud of being the Director of an organization that helps so many,” Steve said. “My goal is to continue to fulfill needs in the local community. I am honored to help others become sustainable, through providing spiritual help, food, or clothing to those who need it.”
The Herrin House is a faith-based group offering spiritual support, food assistance and vocational training to help underprivileged groups in the Herrin, Ill. area become independent and self-sustaining. Their soup kitchen provides meals for an average of 140 individuals per day. During the summer months when children are not in school, the center provides free meals to kids throughout the community.
“If I can offer any advice to those preparing to reenter society, it is to never be afraid to focus on your long-term goals,” Steve said. “Starting life all over again is hard, but don’t let the fear hold you back from achieving your better self.”
GEO Reentry Alumni Services program is available in several states to help individuals transition to society. As National Alumni Manager, O’Boyle connects former program participants to mentor and support current participants, a service he personally benefited from. Like Steve, O’Boyle credits his motivation to change to seeing people accomplish their goals and lead a successful life after incarceration.
“It is the mission of Alumni Services to help others transition to a positive lifestyle,” O’Boyle said. “John Steve is a great example of how the programming works to create change from the inside out, we are very proud of him and the important work he does at Herrin House.”